Office chairs are like any other piece of furniture in that personal preference is what ultimately determines what’s comfortable for you. Still, there are some back-friendly traits and features that tend to make certain office chairs better than others, especially if your goal is to stay focused on your work without being distracted by spine-related discomfort. If you have existing back issues, check with your doctor or Los Angeles spine surgeon to get specific suggestions that meet your needs.
The lumbar (lower) spine is the most common area affected by spine-related pain. You’ll be less likely to be sidetracked by back pain as you type, scroll, field calls, sit in on meetings, and handle other tasks requiring you to be seated. Without sufficient support, your spine’s natural curve could flatten from prolonged sitting, which could place added pressure on spinal discs, joints, bones, nerves, and supporting muscles. Lower back support options with office chairs include:
*Some chairs have attachable backrests that can be raised or lowered to help you find the right level of support.
Armrests that can be adjusted are helpful because they can take stress off your shoulders by providing better support for your elbows. In turn, this reduces pressure on soft tissues in your shoulders and cervical spine (neck). Adjust your armrests so your elbows naturally and lightly rest on them. You should also be able to bend your elbows at a 90-degree angle as you use your keyboard and mouse or any other device in front of you. Look for armrests with these key features:
Even if you have a permanent office chair that’s yours and yours alone, there may be times when you’ll need to adjust the height so your feet are comfortably flat on the floor. Your arms should be roughly at the same height as the desk and your thighs horizontal. A chair with a pneumatic adjustment lever allows you to find the optimal height so you’re keeping excess pressure off your spine.
Note: A commonly recommended seat height is 16–21 inches from the ground, but go by whatever height allows you to maintain proper spinal alignment as you sit and work.
You should choose an office chair with a backrest that supports your entire spine’s natural alignment, from your lumbar region through your upper spine. The backrest should also be high enough to discourage shoulder hunching. The purpose of a headrest is to encourage you to keep your head aligned with your shoulders and upper back. Using a headrest also discourages forward head leaning, which increases your odds of developing problems with cervical discs and supporting upper back muscles.
The seat on your office chair should, ideally, be deep enough to allow you to sit comfortably against the backrest without the urge to lean forward or shift to one side or the other. There should also be about 2–4 inches between the seat of the chair and the back of your knees. For even more flexibility, consider an office chair with a seat that has an adjustable backward/forward tilt.
When choosing an office chair, test different models if you have the flexibility to do so where you work. You might even benefit from alternative office chair designs. One option is a backless stability ball chair that forces you to stay balanced in a way that retains your spine’s natural alignment.
Back pain related to sitting for extended periods can be prevented and treated in a number of ways. The back health experts at The Spine Institute specialize in minimally invasive fusion and non-fusion procedures, including artificial disc replacement and back fusion alternatives. Los Angeles patients can rely on our team of industry-leading physicians to determine the best way to prevent and treat back pain related to sitting for long hours. Call one of our friendly staff members today at 310-828-7757.